Remember that line from “Mean Girls” when Regina George’s mom (played by the wonderful Amy Poehler) says to the teenage girls with a wink, “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom”?

As I’ve been preparing to leave for Marsala, Italy, in a couple of weeks to work as an au pair for a family, I’ve been thinking about this line a lot. What kind of au pair am I aiming to be? A ‘regular’ au pair? What does that even mean? Or do I want to be the ‘cool’ au pair? I am equally unsure what exactly that entails. I want the family’s three children – ages 12, 10 and 5 – to like me, sure, but I also want to be respected.

The family is as generous and kind-hearted as can be, and the children, as far as I can tell from a couple of brief meetings, are polite and well behaved, so I doubt I’ll need to assume any supreme authority role. In fact, considering that my job description is to play with the kids and help them improve their English, the one-of-the-gang au pair approach appears the most likely to help me connect with them.

So, the next question: how to integrate myself with the kids. Though I never thought I’d be pondering how best to get a group of children to like me, it’s an important concern, so I looked straight to the expert: my mom.

My mom is a kid magnet. From babies to petulant tweens, the under-thirteen age group is drawn to my mom and she to them. She can cheer up a screaming tot in a waiting room just by making silly faces at her from across the room, talk dinosaurs with a six-year-old while in line at the store and get a grumpy 12-year-old at a dinner party to open up about a favorite book. I’ve often marveled at the ease with which she connects with children and over the years I’ve picked up a few tips about her methods. The most important thing, I’ve deduced, is this: Don’t be afraid to act a little nuts.

For my mom, a woman incapable of feeling embarrassed, this is no problem. She is the type of person who, on one occasion, pulled our big blue van over on the side of the road and led my brothers, sisters and I running across a field, in hot pursuit of a flock of wild turkeys, just so we could get a better look. The cars that slowed down on the main road to watch the spectacle were likely more intrigued by our antics than by the turkeys, but then again they didn’t get to see the thundering herd of the giant birds up close. It was remarkable, like a nature show without the cameras. Of course, now I realize that the exceptional thing about that day was my mom’s sense of adventure and her willingness to look a little strange for the sake of her kids.

I doubt that I’m going to stumble across a flock of wild turkeys in Sicily, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to channel my mom’s insatiable sense of fun and her unapologetic lack of embarrassment. While I’m a little bit more reserved than my mom (and, unfortunately, all too capable of experiencing feelings of extreme mortification) this is the approach I’m going to take as an au pair. I won’t be a drill sergeant, but I won’t preoccupy myself with earning the kids’ affection by being the “cool” au pair, either. Instead, I’ll simply try my best to have fun with them. If that means looking a little nuts, then so be it.

Laura Wagner is a rising senior in the College and a former sports editor of The Hoya. The Au Pair Diaries appears every other Monday at thehoya.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*